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Transcription of Interview - City Hall


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[jackhammer, city noises in background]

Amid the ever-evolving city of Baltimore, one reminder of Baltimore’s past and its future remains intact. This grand reminder is Baltimore City Hall. City Hall curator Jeanne Nixon explains the importance of City Hall.

JN: Basically, City Hall is the hub of city government. So that means the mayor, most of the larger departments and department heads are housed here .
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In the era when Baltimore was a newly developing city, city leaders decided a building to house city government was needed. When the decision was made to build a city hall in Baltimore, the city held a competition to find an architect for the project. Ultimately, architect George Frederick won the competition. Although he was only 25 at the time, Frederick’s Second Empire French design was chosen and construction immediately began on City Hall. Completed in 1875 after eight years of construction, Baltimore’s new City Hall came in under budget costing just over $2 million.

Among the various aspects of Frederick’s design is the building’s large marble rotunda and stained glass dome that continues to wow visitors even today. Jeanne Nixon explains the significance of the dome.

JN: Called an oculus and that comes from a Latin word that means eye. You have the four larger circles and in them are seated Greek classical figures of women. And they represent four things that were considered very important about the city of Baltimore when the building was built.
SC: The Ceremonial Room, an ornate space reminiscent of Buckingham Palace, is another point of interest for visitors. This room is used by the mayor of Baltimore to receive important guests, honor special individuals, and make announcements pertaining to the public. Another important room in City Hall is City Council Chamber. The City Council Chamber is where the members of city council meet, explains curator Jeanne Nixon.
JN: So meetings are held here at five, they are always open to the public. Also if you can’t make it here but you are interested you can always catch it on TV. And basically city council is the city’s lawmaking body, they make the laws .
SC: During the 1970s, after nearly 100 years of service and much wear and tear, the fate of City Hall was unknown. The building began to fall apart and it lacked many of the modern-day amenities it had seen develop throughout the last century. Baltimoreans even contemplated tearing it down. But City Hall had an ally in former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, who was in office at the time. Schaefer saw to it that the idea to renovate City Hall was put to a vote in the community. In the end, citizens of Baltimore voted in favor of the renovation. For two years all City Hall workers were relocated while the building was transformed explains Jeanne Nixon.
JN: It was pretty much gutted and then things were modernized, the systems were all improved. One of the things they were able to do was double the floor space.
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Today Baltimore City Hall continues to flourish, while trying to keep up with a constantly changing city. It is a place of many functions: where couples are united, laws are made and budgets are fought. But most importantly, Baltimore City Hall stands as a testament to the glory of the past and the promise of the future.

For BaltimoreStories.com this is Starr Crusenberry.

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City Hall: At the center of a thriving city, Baltimore City Hall represents the past and the future.